I recently met with one of my ant friends, and he gave me good insights about ants’ major events of the few last years.

A few years ago, an event was organized among ants. It was held in the Amazon forest. A few hundreds ants attended this event. The main topic of this meeting was to discuss about the recent rise of the ‘Queeny’ approach recently adopted by a few millions colonies worldwide.

This ‘Queeny’ approach and process was getting quite criticized by many ants for being too restrictive and not appropriate to grow a healthy colony.

The meeting that started all

So the few hundred ants met during this sunny and hot Amazonian week.

They discussed various issues about the ‘Queeny’ way, raised several concerns and shared many experiences about other approaches that would fit better.

At the end of this meeting, they birthed a public notice, a kind of statement of beliefs of what they unanimously think could help colonies improve the way they manage communication, defence, nests constructions, cultivation of food and navigation.

They wrote this public notice on a large leaf and pinned it on a tree, next to a very popular ants highway in the Amazon forest.

This public notice goes like this:

Ant’icipative approach

Values and principles for a better colony grooming

Values

  • Rigor
  • Self-discipline
  • Group over individual
  • Constant feedback

Principles

  • Pheromones should be the primary way of communication. Your colony should emphasize pheromones driven communication over sounds and touch.
  • Crushed ants should become the main focus for rescue if the colony hears about a possible attack.
  • Attack frenzy should be solely used for rescue operations and should be solely raised by soldiers.
  • Avoid at all costs any contacts with humans. Stay clear of their lairs whenever is possible. Don’t mess with them.
  • Always be ready for natural disasters. Your colony should be ready at any time for food starvation for at least 3 ants’ months.
  • Nest construction should always be a responsibility of several castes. A representative for every caste should be part of the nest construction team.
  • As a rule of thumb, an ant should never leave the nest more than 200 meters. This way, at dark, everybody will be able to use the scent trail to find back the nest.
  • Let the ‘soldiers’ organized defense in small organized teams. Defence should be taken care based on those who are directly involved with potential attacks.
  • Colonies should respect other colonies. Invasion and stealing among colonies should be strictly forbidden.
  • Although the Queen has a final word on every colony’s decision, she should be open to be challenged on any rules of the colony by any citizen ants of the colony.

This is how the ‘Ant’icipative’ movement was created. A single public notice, written by a few hundreds ants on a sunny week in the Amazon. Four values and ten principles written on a leaf, then pinned on a tree next to an ant highway. It was initially aimed at giving initial food for thought at colonies on how to build a better colony and to get away from the ‘Queeny’ approach.

At the time of the writing of this public notice, several similar initiatives had been organized in the prior years.

However, this one didn’t go unnoticed.

Maybe it was due to the highway proximity or for a few influent ants on the writing board.

The Ant’icipative notice created a monster wave worldwide.

The rise of a stir

First by word of mouth, colonies started to share the notice on their social networks. It was generally well received among most colonies leaders and organizers. Several values and principles included in this notice helped colonies to review the way they managed their colony. Although the notice did just include some values and principles, it helped a few colonies to review their current process to align with the notice’s content.

Then, some ants coined the term ‘Ant’icipators’ to refer to the enthusiasts that were spreading the word and those helping new colonies apply some of these values and principles while building the roots of their organization.

Other animals heard about the Ant’icipative notice.

Several of them started to use the term.

  • Mosquitoes started some Ant’icipative associations where they could talk about Ant’icipation.
  • Among foxes, Ant’icipative coaches emerged to help foxes laires to migrate to an Ant’icipative way of living.
  • Dolphins created some Ant’icipative maturity models to evaluate some dolphins pack.
  • Inside some sharks jobs openings, it was often stated: ‘Must have a basic understanding of Ant’icipative’.

Several books were written by different kind of species about the Ant’icipative megatrend.

  • “How to be Ant’icipative within your wolf pack”
  • “Ant’icipative hunting, a survival guide for lions”
  • “Ant’ticipation among devilfishes”
  • “Be an Ant’icipative leader for your sloth colleagues”
  • And much more…

Websites, magazines, speaker’s sessions, specialists; all around the world of nature, animals were referring to the Ant’icipative movement.

Several animal associations stated loud and clear ‘We are Ant’icipative!”.
However, if you would ask a few of these members ‘What is it to be Ant’icipative?’ , answers would either be quite vague or different from each others.

Other initiatives drifted from the Ant’icipative movement.

  • Bees wrote the “Bee-leave manifesto”, a clear statement about freedom and creativity for bees.
  • Hummingbirds started the ‘Sugarum method’ , a new way to efficiently share nectar among them. This method was inspired by some foundations found in the Ant’icipative notice.

All around the earth, animals were talking about Ant’icipative. How this approach/concept/method/ would change the way they work.

However, The Ant’icipative movement was criticized by a few ants that were still finding some values to the ‘Queeny’ way. Discussion is still raging between colonies if Ant’icipative is a good approach for all colonies or only for a certain type.

So far, Ant’icipative is still a megatrend among several colonies and other animals group.

It started as a public notice of values and principles and drifted to a megatrend where the term is used for different meanings and usage.

As for the ant members who signed the original Ant’icipative notice, they went along and worked hard inside their colonies, believing in the content of such notice, but being aware that it is only a statement of a few values and principles that were important at the time this notice was created.

Personal thoughts

Most of you have surely recognized that this parable refer to the Agile Manifesto.

I wrote this short story to express my point of view about the Agile movement.

First, don’t get me wrong, I am not against this manifesto and its content. I believe in the values and principles stated in this manifesto first written in 2001, at the Snowbird resort in Utah by seventeen brilliant people.
An interesting interview with Martin Fowler, one of the original signatory of the manifesto, describes how casual and simple was the meeting, how the name was chosen (the original first proposal was ‘lightweight method’) and other insights on the original 4 values selected during the 2001 weekend. We also learn that the 12 sub-principles were discussed by emails over the next few weeks following the original meeting.

However, my point of view is that it became something much bigger than what it actually is. Let me explain a bit further.

From a good intention manifesto, that helped change minds about how we should deliver software, it drifted to a buzzword applied almost to any terms.

“Agile team management”, “Agile leaders”, “Agile deployment”, “Agile frameworks”, “Agile Toolkit”, “Agile Architecture”, “Agile marketing”, etc.
It seems that we can now apply the ‘Agile’ adjective to almost anything new that has an iterative or incremental/adaptation approach.

Again, don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for the wonderful stir this manifesto created in the software community, for the mindset shift it did and still does provoke. And the war is far from over. Old school approach is still out there.

Having said that, there is still something irritating about all this hype around the agile movement. It seems that nowadays, you deliver software either Waterfall or Agile. Black or white. Water or fire.
If your process has a tendency toward predictiveness then you are Waterfall. If anything in your process is empirical, then you are Agile.

I find that the Agile buzzword is too much overshadowing other initiatives, thoughts, ways of delivering software.

The ‘catchall’ term

Yes Agile, but what about:

Some could argue that they are, most of them , Agile processes.

But as the Ant’icipative movement, Agile started as a good aggregate of values and principles, but for several people, it became a religious bible, a final goal toward the ultimate way of delivering software.
(For some others, it became also a  serious cash cow, but this is another story!)

The importance of your own values

A bunch of brilliant people agreed on 4 values to drive their projects and the way they deliver software. Great.
However, it is not a reason for you, your team, your department, your organization to not create your own manifesto.
Nobody has the same set of values for a specific topic.
Love, friendship, humor and altruism are great values. However, your organization or your team might not select them as the driving values for deciding on how to deliver software!
Please create your own set of values. Maybe Ux and innovation are top priorities. Maybe intrapreneurship is something your company values the most.

Watch out, the exercise of listing some values and principles will often raise critics about ‘missing some important ones’.

Jurgen Appelo, in a good blog post, expressed his mind about The Agile Blind Spot.

I agree with his view.

It is normal than a listing of values and principles will raise such critics. You can’t list all possible values and principles. You can try to list only those that seems very important to you at a certain moment in your life/career.

IMHO, this is what the Agile manifesto is. A few good minds sat and wrote some values and principles.

That’s it. They are pretty good ones, maybe with a few blind spots here and there.

But, this sole manifesto can’t and should not be your only reference for delivering software over time.

I tend to now to back away from the terms “Agile coach”, “Agile way”, “Agile management”. (You’ll still find a few mention here and there in my previous posts or on my LinkedIn profile, I know!)

As the Ant’icipative movement, it spawned too much variations to be very effective.
Nowadays, with a bit of imagination and extension, almost anything can be qualified as ‘agile’.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I totally agree with the movement that followed the Agile manifesto creation. I think we are heading in a very good direction.

However, Agile should not be a ‘catch-all’ term for anything that is out of the traditional tracks.

So, if you are not Agile, what are you?

Good question. I love Scrum, but also Management 3.0, and also Clean Code, and also, to a certain extent, Kanban. I still believe in the values listed in the agile manifesto. I would personally add some different ones, and maybe remove one or twoof the actual one(if we had to select max 4 values and 12 principles).

I would use the word ‘Aware’ or ‘Awareness’ to describe my point of view, my standing on software delivery.

Aware of good thoughts and initiatives, aware that they exist and that, for certain context, could bring huge value to teams/organizations.

Aware also that , in a few years, other great ideas, visions and manifestos will appear.

My only principle in my Awareness manifesto:

- Be aware of most of the different approaches, their advantages and inconvenient. Be aware that some other thoughts will rise and there will be even better way to organize and manage software delivery teams. Apply those who fit the best and leave a door open. Be a ‘toolbox’ for the organizations/teams that are looking for better way to deliver software.